Gadget Review - M810 Cell Phone Wristwatch

The time has come.

I recently purchased my geekiest gadget to date, and the time has come for me to write my review. To many of you, it will come as no surprise that I bought this item. Not only am I a gadget nerd, but I’m also a watch enthusiast. Anytime the two of those things are merged together in an unholy alliance, I am all over it.

Months ago, I put the M500 cell phone wrist watch on my wish list. At the time, it was the most advanced, feature-packed, best looking cell phone watch on the market. While it still may hold the title as the most aesthetically pleasing, the M500 has been far surpassed technologically by many of the newer cell phone watches. As I did a little research into the market, I settled on the one that I wanted.

The M810.

Manufactured by CECT in China, the M810 is also known on the Internet as the M801, M800i, and the M815. You would think that they would settle on a single model number. But, that is apparently way too much to ask. Of course, for the product I am getting at the price that I am paying, you won’t hear me complain about the inconsistency in the model number.

The M810 is a fully-functioning cellular phone, PDA, MP3, and video player. And, just as icing on the cake, the M810 also comes equipped with a 1.3 megapixel camera which can take still images as well as video. Just to give you an idea of how packed this unit is, take a look at the specs:

Frequency: Tri-band 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
Display: 1.33" TFT-LCD, 260'000 colors, 128 x 160 pixel resolution, touchscreen
Languages: English, Deutsch, Czech, Dutch, Thailand, Russian, Vietnamese, Rabbinic/Hebrew, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Chinese, etc.
Ringtone: 64 Polyphonic, MP3, MIDI, WAV, Incoming ringtone, Incoming photo, Incoming movie
Music: MP3 and back-end playback support, Support output to bluetooth headset
Video: 3GP, MP4 support, 128 x 160 fullscreen play
Camera: 1.3M pixels, supports max 1280x960 photo output
File formats: JPG, GIF, MP3, MIDI, WAV, AMR, 3GP, MP4
Memory: Free 512M TF card, supports maximum 2G memory (MicroSD)
Data transfer: USB data cable / USB disk / Bluetooth 2.0
Internet: GPRS, WAP
Phonebook: Containing up to 250 card-style records, photo of caller/ support ring tone setup for different groups/play movie for incoming call
Messaging: 300 short messages storage, supports MMS messages, message group sending
Power switch: Custom power-on/off picture, can set downloaded MP4 as power-on/off movie
Alarm: Support MP3 alarm ring, can set downloaded mp3 songs as ring of alarm
Talk time: 180-240 minutes
Standby time: 160 - 200 hours
Miscellaneous: Handsfree, recording, handwriting + keypad input, memory extension, e-book, incoming call firewall, calculator, health management

As you can see, this watch leaves almost nothing out. Just about anything that modern smartphones can handle, the M810 can handle. Plus, it fits on your wrist! How cool is that? (I know what you’re thinking. Not very. Bite me.)

As with my other reviews, the best way to handle this is to go through the main features and point out the positives and the negatives. So, here we go:

The Phone
This seems like the perfect place to start. After all, most people would be attracted to this little gadget because it is, primarily, a cellular phone. Well let’s take a look at the phone feature.

Reception and Call Quality
Call quality can really depend on the area that you are in. If you are in a strong cellular site, then you should have no problems using this phone. Of course, it doesn’t offer the same signal strength as a normal handset. For instance, there are certain areas in North Georgia where I can only get about 1 bar of signal strength on my Motorola RAZR. In those same areas, using the M810, I have no bars. There is a bit of a difference when it comes to low coverage areas such as those. But, in strong coverage areas, the M810 works very well. Call quality can also depend on the way you make and receive calls.

The M810 is Bluetooth capable. This means that you can use your standard Bluetooth headset to make and receive calls. Some people don’t want to talk into their watch like Michael Knight. I understand that. For those people, the Bluetooth option is perfect. The M810 actually includes a pair of Bluetooth A2DP earphones for listening to music and receiving calls. Using these earphones, call quality is crystal clear. The drawback is, you would need to carry around these earphones everywhere. That’s not really something I want to do. A better option is to use a normal Bluetooth headset. But, please…don’t wear your Bluetooth headset everywhere you go. Don’t wear it in a restaurant, a movie theatre, or a gas station when you know you aren’t expecting a call. Don’t be that guy. You look like a tool.

While call quality is far superior using a Bluetooth headset, I actually prefer to use the speakerphone function. What can I say? I was a huge fan of Knight Rider. Besides, it’s much quicker and more convenient for me to simply press a button on the watch and answer my phone instead of searching my pockets for my Bluetooth headset. It just makes sense. And, the sound quality from the speaker is decent. It can be difficult to understand people in a very noisy environment, but I’m not in the habit of answering calls in those situations anyway.

One drawback of the speakerphone is that I do have to hold the watch fairly close to my mouth in order for the other person to hear me. If I hold the watch any further than 6 or 7 inches from my mouth, the microphone does not pick up my voice very well. It would be nice to be able to hold it several feet away from my mouth, and still be heard.

Another drawback with any speakerphone is that everyone around can hear both sides of your conversation. In general, this isn’t a problem for me because, as I have already explained, I am not in the habit of answering calls in noisy or crowded areas. Many people don’t seem to realize that there are certain situations when answering a call is just crappy behavior (i.e. a restaurant, movie theatre, or when you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else!). So, having people around me hearing my phone conversation is not usually a problem.

The final drawback in the speakerphone feature isn’t really a problem with the speakerphone itself. It is really a problem with the watch software. In order to answer a call on speakerphone, you must first push the “answer” button on the side of the watch, then you have to tap the “H-Free” button the screen. That’s two steps, when only one should be needed! This is a problem if the person calling begins speaking as soon as you press the “answer” button. You miss their first few words. Also, this can be really irritating when making a call. When you dial a number, it begins to ring. But, it does so in “handheld” mode, which I will discuss in a moment. In this mode, the speakerphone isn’t activated so you can’t actually hear the other person answer the phone. When they do pick up, the watch screen will change. This new screen gives you the option to turn on the speakerphone. In other words, when making a call, you have to continually watch the screen to see the other person answer. As soon as they do, you have to quickly turn on the speakerphone. Otherwise, you won’t be able to hear them.

This gets really annoying. Why not simply have an option for setting speakerphone as the default option? That would simplify the whole process.

The “Other” Option
There is another option for answering calls on this watch. That is the “handheld” method. Basically, you can hold this watch up to your ear as you would a normal phone. The sound is projected through a small speaker in the top of the phone at a reduced volume. This resolves the issue of having people around you hear the other end of your phone conversation. But, it also makes you look like an idiot. In order to use this function, you would basically have to take the watch off and hold it to your ear. I’m not doing that. So, this option doesn’t work for me.

Text Messaging
I’m not big into texting, but I thought I might as well include this in the review. The watch is SMS and MMS capable. I have already sent and received messages, and everything works as it should. Although, I should mention, when you are typing anything on this watch, you better have steady hands and decent eyesight. Otherwise, this isn’t going to work for you. The keypad is kind of small. It’s a 1.33” screen! What did you expect? But, the upside is that it has a full QWERTY keyboard. You don’t have to cycle through letters like you do with most cell phones. If you have steady hands, you may be able to type messages faster with this than you would with a telephone keypad. I know that I do.

As you saw in the specifications, the M810 supports MP3, MIDI, WAV, and polyphonic ringtones. Although, the polyphonic tones that come with this watch are absolutely heinous. You’ll probably want to load your own MP3s as soon as possible.

As with most phones, this watch also comes equipped with vibration mode. That may surprise you considering the size of this watch. What will surprise you even more is the fact that the vibration on this phone isn’t just strong…it’s too strong. I used the “Ring and Vibrate” mode for a few days, but I just didn’t like it. The vibration was almost as loud as the ringtone. Of course, this also means that the “Vibrate Only” mode is a bad idea for quiet situations. Most of us set our phones on vibrate when we go into class or a movie (If you don’t, you should be punched in the face). But, with the M810, the vibration mode is still quite loud. So, I don’t use it.

Unfortunately, the M810 doesn’t come equipped with a silent ringtone. In order to make it completely silent, you basically have to turn it off. I didn’t want to do that. So, I found a simple solution. I loaded a blank MP3 (which I labeled “Silent”) onto my watch. And, I set that as the default ringtone for my “Meeting” sound profile. Now, when I go to a meeting or a movie, I activate the “Meeting” profile which switches my phone to silent.

The Keypad
Obviously, you can load your contacts on to your SIM card which will keep you from having to dial their number every time. But, you can’t load every number in there, so you will occasionally have to dial a number using the numbers on the keypad. The M810 has an impressively large digital keypad on the screen. It is accessible from various menus. Near the bottom of the screen, there is a phone icon. Pressing this icon brings up the keypad which fills the entire screen. The numbers are actually large enough that I don’t have to use the included stylus. I can dial with my fingers. This is especially helpful when you consider how difficult it is to actually use the stylus. But, more on that later. The keypad is accessible during calls. So, if you dial into an automated system which requires you to “press 1 for English,” you will have no problems.

The MP3 Player
I have to begin by saying that I have been very impressed with the MP3 player on the M810. Since, the M810 is capable of supporting up to 2GB of expandable memory, you will have plenty of space for your favorite music. And, when paired with the Bluetooth A2DP earphones, the sound quality is excellent.

I even like the software skin that was chosen for the MP3 player. There are 3 options to choose from, but I prefer Skin1 because of the extra large buttons. Everything is easily accessible with your fingers.

The volume output is also excellent. As it is with the speakerphone, for the best results, you’ll want to use the included Bluetooth earphones to listen to music. But, if you don’t have them handy, you can also play music through the built-in speaker.

And, yes…that is SPEAKER…not SPEAKERS. At first glance, the M810 appears to have 4 speakers surrounding the screen. It looks impressive, but it is just for show. 3 of these are “dummy” speakers. They don’t actually work. Only one of them (the top right speaker) puts out sound. Still, with one speaker, the volume and quality are quite impressive.

The Video Player
I was close to having an aneurysm over this video player. The specifications say that the M810 is capable of playing 3GP and MP4 video. So, I tired converting a couple of movie clips to these formats and loading them onto the watch. Yet, I kept getting a message that read “Invalid Video File.” I discovered that you can’t simply convert video to any 3GP or MP4 format. You have to be mindful of the codec you are using. Through my research, I found out that videos must be converted to the 3GP format using the MPEG4 codec. Confused? Let me make you even more confused.

Not only do you have to be mindful of the codec, you have to be mindful of every other setting on the video conversion. I had to go through several different settings until I found the one that would actually play on the watch. Then, I adjusted the settings to find the optimal video and audio settings that will play on the M810. Here is what I found.

Using the program Freez 3GP Converter, change the settings to the following:

File Format: 3GP
Video Codec: MPEG4
Resolution: 160 x 120
Video Quality: 1
Framerate: 14.985
Zoom Mode: Letterbox
Audio Codec: AAC-LC
Audio Bitrate: 48 KBPS
Audio Frequency: 48000 Hz
Channels: Stereo

The Camera
The camera on the M810 is…well…OK. I don’t plan on using this much, if ever. I have tested it, and it seems to work just fine. It is only a 1.3 megapixel camera, so you can’t expect the highest quality of images. But, if you absolutely needed to take a picture and you didn’t have another camera on you, this would do the trick.

The Organizer
The organizer is packed. If you have used a PDA, you know the drill. You can schedule your tasks along with their dates, star times, and end times. You can also setup alarms to remind you of tasks. The organizer also includes a calculator.

But, the organizer on the M810 has a few features that you may have not seen on other PDAs. There is a Unit Converter (Weight and Length), Currency Converter, World Clock, and BMI calculator. It also has a Menstrual Cycle calculator…but I don’t plan on using that any time soon.

The Flash Drive

When you connect the watch to your computer, it has the ability to act as a USB flash drive. Depending on the size of the MicroSD card that you use in your M810, you can have as much as 2GB of free space to store your files. The only downfall that I can see with this function is the exact same downfall that I had with my MP3 Watch. In order to connect it to a computer, you must use the USB cable that is included. The cable is 3 feet long. Do you want to carry a cable like that around with you? I don’t. So, I’m trying to find a more compact solution. The problem is that the port on the M810 is not a normal mini-USB port. It almost looks custom. If I could identify it, it would probably be easier to find a small adapter. Until then, I guess I’ll have to use the cable.

The Screen
The screen on the M810 is very clear and easy to view. Watching movies on this could strain your eyes. But, the screen size and resolution are great for other functions. In fact, unlike most cellular phones, the main screen is capable of displaying animated GIFs. You can actually set an animation as your wallpaper. I like to customize things like this. And, having the ability to set something besides a static image as my wallpaper was a welcomed surprise.

The Size
I can imagine that most people would be concerned about the size of this watch. That’s certainly understandable. No one wants to wear a brick on their wrist. And, for all of these features, you really wouldn’t expect the M810 to be very small.

Though the M810 is a little bulky, it’s surprisingly compact. It is approximately 2.75” long, 1.8” wide, and .75” thick. However, since the watch has a lot of curvature to it, it looks smaller. Ideally, I would prefer for the watch to be thinner. But, you wouldn’t want the watch face too much smaller. Otherwise, it would make it quite difficult to use many of the functions.

The Battery

Most of the M810’s thickness is due to the battery. Still, it is quite small for the amount of power that it puts out. I have been very impressed with the battery life. It lasts almost as long as the battery on my RAZR. Plus, it comes with an extra battery. If you forget to recharge it, just slip in the spare battery and go!

The Stylus
I hate the stylus. There…I said it. I don’t know what the designers were thinking when they developed this stylus. But, I swear that a blind fish with A.D.D. could have come up with something better. To start with, it is incredibly small. I suppose it has to be to fit inside the watch band (where it is hidden). But, there had to be a way to make a larger stylus that is easier to write with.

Also, as I said, it is hidden inside the band. That seems like a great idea. The problem is, they put it in the worst place possible. When you are wearing the watch, it is extremely difficult to dig the stylus out of its hiding place. It is hidden on the bottom (close to your wrist), near the camera. It would have made much more sense to put the stylus near the opposite side of the watch, near the top. I know that there is some available space there.

The Conclusion

I have to say that I love the M810. It has a few shortcomings, but all of those are overshadowed by the great things about this watch. Plus, I look super cool wearing it. Trust me…I do.

Overall, I would recommend the M810 for people who don’t spend the majority of their time on the phone. If your job, or daily routine requires you to spend hours every day on a mobile phone, this probably isn’t for you.

But, if you love gadgets, and you’ve always wanted a watch like Dick Tracy’s, try this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The M810 can be found on eBay listed as the M810, M801, M800i, or the M815.

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MySpace LCARS Update

It's finished! Today, I completed the last bit of HTML code for my new MySpace profile! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was working on an Adobe Flash file to serve as my MySpace profile.

Learning Flash CS3 and ActionScript 3 took quite a while. ActionScript 3 is fairly new, so there weren't as many tutorials floating around the internet. I had to go through a lot of "trial and error" to solve many of my problems. Creating the SWF alone took several days.

After I had created the SWF, I attempted to post it on MySpace. Once I tried this, I discovered a couple of very BIG problems.

First, MySpace has restricted the use of JavaScript and crippled the navigatetoURL function in ActionScript. That means that I couldn't link any of my Flash buttons to other websites! I couldn't even connect them to other MySpace functions such as Email, Friend Request, etc.

My next big problem was that the SWF I had created was way too large for most screens. In order to see the full image, users would have to scroll around. I hated that idea. So, I had to resize the entire file to fit a 17" monitor (which I assume is the most popular size being used today.)

A few days ago, I started redesigning my Flash file to correct these mistakes, and I searched for workarounds to the navigatetoURL problem. Ultimately, I had to use 2 different solutions.

The first was to use an ActionScript trick on all of the hyperlinks present in my SWF. I wrote the ActionScript so that any time a user clicks a particular hyperlink, that URL will be copied into their clipboard. From there, they can simply paste it into their Internet browser.

Pretty cool, ehh?

The second solution was to use transparent DIV overlays on top of my portions of my SWF file and post transparent HTML buttons on top of my Flash buttons. Unfortunately, this negates my ability to animate those particular buttons. But, it was a point that I was forced to concede.

It took a lot of time to position them correctly. But, in the end, I feel like it was worth it. I learned a lot from this little experiment, and I've discovered that I really love using Adobe Flash.

If you have time, go check out my new MySpace profile, and let me know what you think!


LCARS on Myspace

There’s no denying it. I am a Trekker. No, I don’t own a single Starfleet uniform and I have, in fact, never attended a convention. Nevertheless, I am a big fan of Star Trek.

That is why I decided to redesign my Myspace page after the interfaces seen in the Star Trek universe (except for The Original Series). The interfaces used on Star Trek are known as LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System). Essentially, they are a futuristic operating system similar to Microsoft Windows. The graphical interfaces are organized and categorized according to functions, and they can be quickly reorganized and redesigned depending on the usage.

The interfaces are aesthetically interesting, efficient, and easy to operate, which is exactly what I wanted for my new Myspace page. So, I redesigned it with this scheme in mind.

It took a while to figure out the exact HTML coding, but I completed my first redesign a few weeks ago. (I call it my first redesign because I am in the process of making another one. More on that in a moment.) My first attempt utilized simple GIF animations and interactive buttons to access all of the Myspace functions and some external links. The GIF animations that I used provided a certain level of activity and motion, but I quickly discovered that I had used too many animations. When I tried to open the page, it was incredibly slow. So, I took down some of the animations and replaced them with simple images. The result (pictured below) was good, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. There is only one way I can get the interactivity that I wanted and maintain the proper amount of animation. I had to create a Flash file.

Adobe Flash is really the best way to showcase something like the LCARS interface. You can customize all of the animations like a movie, and you can change the entire interface by programming interactive buttons.

The only problem was…I had never worked with Adobe Flash before. I had seen it used on countless websites, but I had never worked with the Adobe Flash platform. Fortunately, Adobe was offering on their website a free download of Flash CS3 Professional. Users could download it and try it free for 30 days. So, I did.

I watched several of their tutorials on this page and began learning how to use it. I have always thought of myself as a quick learner when it comes to computer programs, and CS3 was no different. It’s user friendly as long as you have some inclination toward editing software.

I went through a few different designs before I settled on one that I liked. Now, I just have to finish building it. I hope to have it posted within the next few days, and I’ll be sure to post updates when I do.

Live long and prosper.


MP3 Watch Update

I know…I know. I am beginning to obsess over this thing. My MP3 Watch has been a great purchase, and I wear it every day. Granted, I don’t use the MP3 or flash drive functions every day. But, I always have my accessories on hand, just in case.

I purchased a pair of retractable headphones with a 2.5mm audio plug on them. They were hard to find. But, after some Google searching, I found an affordable pair.

The problem was that the first pair the company shipped was the wrong kind. They shipped retractable headphones with a 3.5mm plug. Obviously, these wouldn’t fit my MP3 watch. So, I emailed the company and they replaced them without any problems. They shipped out the correct pair the very next day!

Once they arrived, I quickly discovered a new problem. I knew that the 2.5mm plug on the headphones had to be a 4-pin plug (meaning that it would have 3 black rings on it instead of the more common 2 black ring plugs).
But, like an idiot, I forgot to check on this little detail before I ordered the headphones. Even the correct headphones that I ordered wouldn’t work with my watch.

Obviously, the first thing I thought about doing was cutting the 2.5mm (2 ring) plug off of these headphones and soldering on the proper 2.5mm (3 ring) plug. After many attempts to find the correct wiring pattern, I finally discovered the proper way to wire the correct plug to the headphones. I soldered it all together, and…

It was total crap. The sound was awful. It was coming through both ears. But, the bass and treble were way off. I assume that those particular headphones simply didn’t have enough power for that 2.5mm (3 ring) plug. They weren’t compatible.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I took the 3.5mm plug headphones that the company incorrectly sent to me the first time (which they allowed me to keep), and I put a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter on them.

*NOTE – The 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter will not work for the USB cable. The 2.5mm plug must be directly wired to the USB plug to transmit data. Only audio will transmit through the adapter.

I had originally decided against using such an adapter because the only 3.5mm to 2.5mm (4-pin) adapters that I could find were 5 inches long. This doesn’t sound like much, but when the retractable headphones coil up into a nice little package, it’s a shame to have an extra 5 inch cable hanging off of the end.

It isn’t the best-looking solution. But, it gets the job done. It’s portable, it’s virtually clutter-free, and the sound is great.

I thought I had it all together. Then, I ran into a new problem. Actually, it’s a problem that I created. Remember the 2.5mm to USB adapter that I made? Yeah…I broke it.

The 2.5mm plug is so small that it snapped quite easily. I suppose it happened one day when I threw my keys down (which it was attached to). I can’t say for sure because I didn’t see it happen. I just pulled it out to use it one day and noticed that the plug was snapped in two.

Not cool.

Naturally, I decided to make a new one. This time I would protect the 2.5mm plug by covering it, and I would improve the design so I could detach it from my key ring quickly and easily. I thought I came up with a pretty clever idea.

I constructed the new adapter much like the last one. But, for the 2.5mm plug cover, I modified an actual 2.5mm jack that I purchased at Radio Shack.

I could attach the modified 2.5mm jack to my key ring, and plug up the adapter to the jack. The 2.5mm plug would be protected, and I could quickly detach it by “unplugging it” from my key ring.

This idea worked very well…for a while.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my MP3 watch wasn’t being recognized by my computer right away.
I would have to unplug it and plug it back in several times. Over the next few days, the problem continued to get worse. It would be recognized by the computer for a while. Then, all of a sudden, it wouldn’t recognize it at all. It was as if it were being continuously unplugged and plugged back in. The connection was obviously bad.

So, I took it a part to diagnose the problem. But, I couldn’t find anything wrong. The wires were soldered on correctly, and everything seemed to be intact.

Then I noticed it. The 2.5mm plug was very badly scratched. As it turns out, the style of jack that I used was too tight for the 2.5mm plug on my adapter. Continuously unplugging it and plugging it into the jack on my key ring had scratched the plug. My design simply wouldn’t work.

Now, I’ve created a third adapter.

I am trying to figure out the best way to attach it to my key ring and protect the 2.5mm plug. I'd rather not risk damaging another plug by using a better 2.5mm jack.
I’m sure I’ll come up with a new design soon, so I’ll keep you posted.


The War Is Over

Blu-Ray and HD DVD have been going head-to-head since 2006. Consumers have been waiting for one high-definition format to win out, so that they could finally fill their media rooms with the latest high-definition films while maintaining all confidence that their chosen format will not be obsolute within the next 2 years.

Since 2006, many consumers chose HD DVD players. Many chose Blu-Ray. This past Christmas, I chose HD DVD. My choice was based on a pure marketing approach.

It was my opinion that HD DVD had the advantage of having the name "DVD" in the title of their format. To the uninformed consumer, when they hear the name "HD DVD," they automatically know that is some type of DVD disc. If they know what "HD" means (and most people do), they automatically know what an HD DVD is.

On the other hand, when an uninformed consumer hears the name "Blu-Ray," they have no clue what that product is. Unless, they actually ask a store clerk what that means, they will most likely skip right over it.

That was my opinion anyway.

So, for Christmas 2007, I bought an HD DVD player (OK...It was given to me as a gift. But, I had asked for it.) The format war was neck-and-neck at that point, and I really thought HD DVD would win out.

Much to my dismay, 2008 brought about the critical turning point in the Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD format war. In January 2008, Las Vegas was host to Consumer Electronics Show. It was at this show that Warner Bros. officially announced that it was ditching HD DVD and throwing its entire support behing Blu-Ray.

This single announcement began the chain reaction that quickly brought HD DVD to its knees. New Line Cinema quickly followed Warner Bros. movement to Blu-Ray. But, the final blow came when Wal-Mart also decided to jump on the Blu-Ray bandwagon. When the largest DVD retailer in the United States abandons your format, you're toast.

Finally, on February 19, 2008, Toshiba, the manufacturer behind HD DVD, announced that it would be discontinuing all production of HD DVD equipment.

The war is over. Blu-Ray has won.

Hey, would anyone like to buy a barely used Toshiba HD DVD player?


Make your own USB to 2.5mm adapter

In my review of the A218 MP3 watch, I discussed the primary problem with the watch. It has a 2.5mm port which serves as the data port and the headphone port.

If you know anything about modern audio electronics, you know that most of them utilize a 3.5mm port. Almost any headphones you have ever seen have a 3.5mm jack. The same goes for products such as the 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle which utilizes a multi-function audio port. It can be used as an audio port or as a data transfer port. But, all of these products will still utilize a 3.5mm port.

The A218 MP3 watch is a little different. Because it uses a 2.5mm port, you are limited on the types of cables and adapters that you can use.

Of course, the watch does come with a USB cable and headphones which will fit this 2.5mm port. However, the primary problem with this is the fact that the USB cable which comes with the watch is 12 inches long. In order to use this watch as a flash drive, you have to carry this long cable around with you everywhere. The purpose of the watch is portability. The 12 inch cable completely defeats this purpose.

So, I attempted to find a solution.

I found a USB adapter for the 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle. It is a very small adapter with a male USB on one end and a 3.5mm jack on the other. In order for this to fit the watch, the 3.5mm jack had to be reduced to a 2.5mm jack. These adapters are very easy to find. So, I ordered the iPod Shuffle adapter from eBay and picked up the 3.5mm/2.5mm adapter at Radio Shack. Once the iPod Shuffle adapter arrived in the mail, I connected the pieces together, plugged them into my MP3 watch, and waited for the magic. Much to my disappointment, nothing happened.

Apparently, the USB data signal will not transmit through a 3.5mm/2.5mm adapter. The 2.5mm jack has to be directly wired to the USB plug.

So, I tried to find an adapter that made a direct connection from a male USB to a male 2.5mm jack. I searched the Internet thoroughly. I even emailed manufacturers. No success. There isn’t an adapter like this anywhere on the market…none that I could find anyway.

So, what do we do when we can’t find what we need? We make it.

I started gathering the necessary materials, and studying up on the proper procedures. I found an old USB cable and a 2.5mm jack. But, during my research, I discovered a crucial aspect of the 2.5mm jack. The jack has to be a 4 pin jack. This means it has 4 connection points on it. You will know if it is a 4 pin jack because the tip will have 3 black rings on it. Most only have 2. Some even have 1.

So, I had to find a 2.5mm, 4 pin jack. Luckily, the MP3 watch came with an extra USB cable. So, I robbed the 2.5mm jack from that.

I had all of my parts:

Now comes the hard part…putting it together.

First, I had to figure out which cable connects to which. The USB plug has 4 cables…Red, Green, Black, and White. During my research, I discovered this page which is a guide on making a similar adapter for the iPod shuffle. Though the adapter on this page uses a 3.5mm jack, the principle is essentially the same.

There was a small problem, however. The diagram on this page told me which wire to put on which connection, but on the wrong end. It points to the tip of the 2.5mm jack which plugs into the watch. Obviously, you can’t solder to that end. So, I had to use an ohmmeter to figure out which connection corresponded to which soldering point. To save anyone else the hassle, I have revised the diagram to reflect this.

Once I had this diagram, I started the soldering process. It’s not easy. The parts are so small, and the plastic on the 2.5mm jack has a tendency to melt from the heat. But, I eventually got all the wires soldered on to the 2.5mm jack.

I plugged it in to the watch, plugged the USB cable into my Computer, and witnessed the most amazing thing. It actually worked!

The hard part was over with. After that, I made a basic casing for the adapter which consisted of the original USB casing and a little epoxy. I then connected a key ring to it and…Voila. I had a USB/2.5mm adapter that I could carry around with me anywhere.

The work gets a little tricky, but it’s really worth the effort.

Gadget Review - A218 MP3 Watch

As I have said before, I am a sucker for cool gadgets. Admittedly, they are probably only cool by my standards. To everyone else, they are just geeky. But, nevertheless, I love them. This is especially true for gadget watches.

If you read this previous post, you know what I am talking about.

I recently purchased a new gadget watch, and I just had to share my opinion on it. It has always frustrated me that there are so many seemingly cool gadgets available for sale on the Internet. But, finding a helpful review on them is next to impossible. I am always hesitant to buy something over the Internet unless I can read a review on the product. But, for this particular watch, I made an exception.

Without further adieu, here is my review of the A218 MP3 watch.

Different brands and styles of MP3 watches are available all over the Internet. I found this particular watch on eBay. If you browse around eBay you can find MP3 and MP4 watches with capacities of 256MB to 4GB. I wanted a simple MP3 watch with a descent storage capacity. But, I also wanted one that didn’t look like an MP3 player. It had to look like a regular dress watch so I could wear it to work and on an everyday basis.

The A218 MP3 Watch fit the bill. Take a look:

As you can see, it looks like a regular watch. But, there is so much more to it. It serves as a flash drive, an MP3 player, an FM radio, and a voice recorder! I’ll never be bored again.

One of the most amazing things about this watch is the storage capacity. It has 2GB of storage built-in. That’s enough for 400-500 MP3s and any files you need to take with you.

I’ve had the watch for a couple of weeks which has given me enough time to review all of the features. Here are my opinions…

MP3 Player:

I have been very impressed with the sound quality on this player. Some people, like myself, will be able to tell a slight difference in the sound quality of this player versus an iPod. But, then again, that could simply be attributed to the earbuds that come with this MP3 player. I will discuss more on that subject later. But, the MP3 player is simple to use. It’s really the best feature on this watch.

I should point out that when you add songs to this player, it will play them in the order that you add them, and will only play them in that order. You can’t rearrange them once they are on there. This might be a drawback if you already have 100-200 songs on there, and you want to add a new song to play first. You will have to delete all of your music, and then add them back on in the correct order. This can be a hassle if you really care about the order of your music.

FM Radio:

It’s a nice idea, but…

You can’t expect much out of this radio. Depending on your location, you may pick up more stations than other locations. But, the internal antenna leaves a lot to be desired. I am only able to pick up 3 or 4 stations, and I am in a good location for radio reception. The stations you can pick up will come in very clearly. But, as I said, there are very few of those. The FM radio isn’t that impressive.

Flash Drive:

It’s a simple plug and play USB flash drive. If you have ever used a flash drive, you know the drill. There is nothing different here. Once the watch is plugged in, it acts as a separate drive. You can drag and drop files, create and organize folders, etc.

Nothing. It is a basic 2GB flash drive. Everything works as it should.

Voice Recorder:

This has been very surprising. When I originally saw this on eBay, the voice recorder was a main focus of the seller’s description of the watch. He marketed it as a “Spy Voice Recorder.” I guess that is true since you can’t see the microphone at all. I still can’t find it! But, I didn’t think I would actually use this recorder.

I was wrong. I love the voice recorder! It is so handy for keeping notes and reminders. I have already used it several times. The sound quality is very good. Even if you hold the watch 12-18 inches away from your mouth, the microphone will still pick up your voice clearly. I have even recorded in a loud environment where there was a lot of noise in the background. Listening to the note, I could barely hear the background noise. My voice came through clearly.

There are two negative aspects to the voice recorder, and neither of them are very important. First, since the watch has no outer speaker, you have to plug up the headphones to hear your notes. You can also listen to them through your computer. Once, you plug up the watch to your computer, and open up the folders, you will see a folder named “Mic.” This is the folder where all of your voice notes are stored. You can simply open them from there and listen to them through your computer speakers. It would be nice, though, to not have to do any of this or plug up headphones. A speaker could come in handy.

The second problem is that, in order to record a note, you have to start the watch, wait for it to start up, put it in “record” mode, then press the record button. All-in-all, it takes about 20 seconds and 3 button-presses to do all of this. One-touch recording would be preferable. But, like I said, it isn’t a big deal.


The watch claims to have 5 equalizer settings, and even has a button labeled “EQ” (though this button also serves other functions). However, the differences in the Equalizer settings are so insignificant that you can’t really consider them an important function.


I specifically looked for an MP3 watch which didn’t look like an MP3 watch. That includes being the size of a normal watch. This one definitely is. It’s not too wide, and it fits well on my wrist. I guess my only slight complaint is…

It’s a little thicker than I thought it would be. Normal dress watches these days are ridiculously thin. It would be nice if this watch was equally as thin, but I suppose that is too much to ask for all of these features. The watch is about 5/8 inch thick, so it still can’t be defined as “bulky.” Also, once it is on my wrist, I hardly notice the thickness.

Ease of Use:

This is an interesting subject. Once you get the hang of it, all of the functions are very straightforward and easy to understand. The only problem is getting to the point where you understand how to use the watch.

The instructions that come with the watch are completely useless. The watch is made in China, so the instruction manual was originally written in Chinese. If you know anything about the language, you know that many things in Chinese don’t translate well into English. I am guess that the company used an automated translation system to print an “English” translation of the instructions. It’s really just random English words thrown together in a pseudo-sentence format. Like I said, the instructions are useless. You just have to play around with the watch, and figure out how everything works. I’m pretty good with just pressing random buttons, so I figured it out fairly quickly.

Data port/Headphone port:

This is an important topic, and something to consider before buying this item. As you can see in the picture below, the Data and Headphone port is on the side of the watch.

It is similar to the port on a 2nd Generation iPod shuffle due to the fact that it serves 2 different functions depending on the type of cable that is plugged into it. However, there is one crucial difference.

This is a 2.5mm port (Some people may refer to it as a 3/32 port). It will only accept a 2.5mm jack. iPods, CD players, and almost any other electronic device being made today use a 3.5mm (1/8) port. I’m not sure why the manufacturer did this, other than to save space. But, it creates a small problem. You cannot use your regular headphones with this watch. The watch comes with 2.5mm jack earbuds, and the quality of these earbuds is decent. Most people may be perfectly happy with them. But, for comfort reasons, I prefer to use rubber tipped earbuds. But, due to the 2.5mm port, I can’t use my regular earbuds. And, finding 2.5mm earbuds in retail stores is very difficult. If you want a different style of headphones, you may have to find them online.

This watch also comes with a USB data cable. One end is a male USB which plugs into your computer. The other end is a male 2.5mm jack which plugs into the watch. This cable is crucial to using the watch, but consider this. The cable is about 12 inches long. In order to use this watch as a flash drive, you have to carry this long cable everywhere. It’s not very convenient or portable.

This is a problem. But, I found the solution. You can read about it here.

Final Assessment:
Overall, I rate the A218 MP3 watch very positively. It is a purchase that is well worth the money. In fact, the price is probably the best part. I found this watch on eBay for $25. That includes shipping!

$25 for all of these features? It’s a fantastic deal!

(You can find the A218 on eBay listed as: 2GB SPY VOICE RECORDER FM FLASH DRIVE MP3 WATCH A218)